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Students bear brunt of protests

- Manipur schools shut after clashes over ILP

Imphal, July 25: The Okram Ibobi Singh government shut down all government and private educational institutions in the Imphal East and Imphal West districts till Monday to quell the student movement over the inner-line permit (ILP) system.

The city has witnessed daily clashes between the police and students from the districts since Wednesday. Scores of students were injured when the police cracked down on the protesters.

Spearheaded by the students’ wing of the Joint Committee on ILP, a conglomerate of citizens’ groups, school and college students were trying to march to the state Assembly, which is in session, demanding implementation of the ILP system in Manipur.

They urged the legislators to take a firm stand on the issue.

The students fought pitched battles with the police when they were stopped on their way to the Assembly.

The police resorted to a lathi-charge and used teargas shells and rubber bullets. The students retaliated by hurling stones at the police. Some policemen were injured.

The closure of educational institutions was announced after the situation worsened yesterday with the students of D.M. College confronting police at the college for more than three hours.

The Assembly session ends on Monday.

The police and students clashed again today at the southern gate of D.M. College, nearly 500 metres from the Assembly when the House was in session. The clash erupted after the police tried to disperse a group of students who were protesting against the closure of the colleges and demanding the implementation of ILP. Women vendors also took out a rally here today in support of the demand.

The issue of police action on students was raised in the Assembly today with L. Ibomcha Singh of the NCP urging deputy chief minister Gaikhangam, who is also the home minister, to restrain the law-enforcers.

After reports from the respective superintendents of police on the prevailing situation, the state education department issued an order yesterday to shut down the institutions in the two districts from today. The order also asked the police to keep a watch on the institutions to prevent unwanted developments on the campuses.

After three days of clashes between the police and students, the situation remained tense in these two districts.

The Protection and Preservation Committee, a rights group, strongly condemned the police action. “We condemn the police brutality on students who were on a peaceful agitation. The home minister should take disciplinary action against the personnel involved,” Elangbam Johnson, the convener of the committee, demanded.

In a related development, citizens’ groups today staged a silent demonstration in the city to protest the Assembly’s decision to admit a privilege motion against rights activist Babloo Loitongbam over his comment on “inaction” by all 60 members of the House on the issue of ILP.

Serving the notice, I. Ibohalbi Singh said Loitongbam made derogatory remarks against the MLAs during a discussion on a local TV news channel, which was a breach of privilege and contempt of House. All the members supported the motion.

The privilege committee yesterday examined the notice and submitted a report to the Speaker, Th. Lokeshwar Singh, today. The House is yet to discuss the report.

“The privilege of 60 MLAs cannot prevail over the basic and fundamental rights of the 27 lakh citizens of Manipur,” a joint statement of rights defenders said.

The statement said any effort to muzzle the people’s voices was an affront to democracy.


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